Great Britain has been at the forefront of the sport since its inception at the Paralympic Games in Atlanta 1996 and has won team gold at every Paralympic Games since. Outside of the Paralympic arena, the team also have an unbeaten record on the European and World stage.
In 2008 the GB team brought home 10 medals from the Beijing Paralympic Games and have consistently maintained their position as the leading nation in the team event.
As Paralympic sport continues to develop, the competition in the team event has intensified with Germany, Denmark and The Netherlands, all hot on Britain’s heels across the grades.
The 2015 European Championships saw Britain’s team (Sophie Christiansen, Anne Dunham, Lee Pearson and Sophie Wells) secure team gold once again, as well as adding ten individual medals to their tally. It was a double golden individual delight for Sophie Christiansen in the grade Ia class, with team-mate Anne Dunham taking the silver medals.
At the 2014 World Equestrian Games (the World Championship equivalent in equestrian sport) the team of five brought home eight medals, including team gold. Lee Pearson claimed the top placing in the grade Ib class, with a final tally of three gold medals; Sophie Christiansen took the grade Ia individual championship gold but was pipped to the post in the freestyle by Italy’s Sara Morganti to take the silver, whilst Sophie Wells added to her medal tally with two individual silver medals in the grade IV class.
At London 2012, the GB team once again proved their dominance in the arena, topping the medal table with a haul of five golds, five silvers and one bronze. The team of Sophie Christiansen, Sophie Wells, Deb Criddle and Lee Pearson successfully defended Great Britain's team title, with Christiansen going on to win a further two golds in her individual championship grade Ia and individual freestyle grade Ia tests. Natasha Baker also brought home two golds from her individual championship grade II and individual freestyle grade II tests, while Criddle and Wells added a further to silvers each and Pearson added a silver and a bronze to GB's tally.
- First year at a Paralympic Games:
- Atlanta 1996
- Brief history:
- The first international dressage competitions for disabled riders were held at the 1984 World Games in New York, with the first World Championships taking place in Sweden in 1987
- Eligible impairment groups:
- All physical impairment groups and visually impaired athletes. All equestrian events at the Paralympic Games are mixed, with athletes grouped according to their functional ability. Riders who have visual impairments are permitted to use 'callers' to help them navigate around the arena.
- London medal table:
- 1- Great Britain (five gold, five silver, one bronze)
- 2 - Germany (two gold, three silver, two bronze)
- 3 - Belgium (two gold)
- GB medals in London:
- Sophie Christiansen: team gold, individual championship test grade Ia gold, individual freestyle test grade Ia gold
- Deb Criddle: team gold, individual championship test grade III silver, individual freestyle test grade III silver
- Sophie Wells: team gold, individual championship test grade IV silver, individual freestyle test grade IV silver
- Lee Pearson: team gold, individual championship test grade Ib silver, individual freestyle test grade Ib bronze
- Natasha Baker: individual championship test grade II gold, individual freestyle test grade II gold
- Did you know:
- GB has won the team event at every Paralympic Games since the event was introduced in 1996
- Rio 2016 venue:
- National Equestrian Centre (Deodoro Zone)
Five riders will compete for Great Britain at the Games; three or four riders make up a team (four riders will compete for ParalympicsGB), with the final rider(s) riding as an individual. Men and women compete against each other equally within their specific grades, with riders competing on their own horses.
At the Paralympic Games, all athletes compete in three dressage tests: a team test, an individual championship test and a freestyle test (where athletes choose their own routine and set it to their own choice of music).
The results of the team and individual championship tests are added together to arrive at the overall team score, with the best three scores (from a team of four) counting. Individual medals are also awarded on the merit of both the individual championship test and the freestyle test. All riders, whether competing in a team or not, may ride in the team test.
Athletes are classified according to their functional ability when mounted across five grades (Ia, Ib, II, III and IV). The grading determines the complexity of the movements riders perform with their horses during their tests, ensuring that the tests are judged on the skill of the rider, regardless of their impairment. Riders may use permitted assistive devices (called compensating aids) such as dressage whips, connecting rein bars, looped reins, and the like. Visually impaired riders are permitted to use ‘callers’ to help them navigate around the arena.
Grade Ia riders are usually wheelchair users with impairment of all four limbs. They may be able to walk, but this is usually with an unsteady gait due to difficulties with balance and trunk stability.
Grade Ib riders are similar to Grade Ia in that they are mainly wheelchair users with poor trunk balance and impairment of function in all four limbs, or no trunk balance and good upper limb function or moderate trunk balance with severe impairment of all four limbs.
Grade II riders are often wheelchair users. Riders in this grade can have severe impairment involving the trunk but have good or mild upper limb function, or can have severe arm impairment and slight leg impairment, or can have severe degree of impairment down one side.
Grade III riders are usually able to walk without support but may require a wheelchair for longer distances. Riders can have moderate unilateral impairment, moderate impairment of all four limbs, or severe arm impairment. Blind riders (B1 total loss of eye sight) compete in this category but must wear blacked-out glasses or a blindfold.
Grade IV riders have an impairment in one of two limbs or some visual impairment (partial loss of eye sight) at B2 level.
Riders with just a hearing impairment or who have a visual impairment at B3 or B4 level are not eligible to compete at a Paralympic Games in para-equestrian dressage. Riders with recovering or deteriorating conditions such as MS are eligible but must have been reclassified within six months of a World Championships or Paralympic Games to ensure their classification is correct.
Specialised equipment including prostheses is only allowed where it has been specifically approved and is written on the master list.